In The Mystery of Eldorado, you play as members of a failed expedition to find the legendary city. Your flight home has crashed. It has dropped you in the middle of the rainforest with limited resources. Now you have to solve puzzles to find your way out - or to Eldorado itself.
Setup and Gameplay
Deckscape games consist of a deck of numbered cards. They start with a couple of cards to outline what an escape room is and the rules of this particular escape room game. It is a very beginner-friendly game series. The only equipment you need outside of the game itself is paper, a pencil, and a way of keeping the time.
You play the game by making your way through the deck. You read the top card and follow its instructions. Usually, it will contain a puzzle that you must solve with the information on the card itself as well as the help of items and clues on other cards. When you think you have solved the puzzle, you flip the card and check.
If the solution is correct, you continue as described on the card. If not, you mark a Z on the provided scoring sheet. You can only ever have two Z’s marked and if you need to mark a third, you mark an X instead. X’s influence your final score at the end of the game (alongside how long you take) and are harder to get rid of during the game than Z’s.
You continue solving puzzles and gathering clues and items until you reach the final, story-ending puzzle, which contains a choice. Your response to this choice determines which closing paragraph you get.
Experience and Replayability
Despite the simple setup of the 60-card deck (as well as a leaflet for later in the game), The Mystery of Eldorado manages to deliver quite a varied game experience. Moreover, the format is used in interesting ways to support the storytelling.
At game start, as your characters are plummeting towards the jungle in a falling aeroplane, you are given the choice of four items (manual, binoculars, machete, and food) from which you must pick two, without reading what you can do with them. As you progress through the deck, certain puzzles will have more context or easier solutions depending on which items you chose.
Later on, several paths are laid out before you which is illustrated by the deck breaking into four piles. You can attempt to solve any of the top card puzzles, but certain puzzles require you to have found items and clues in another pile before you can solve them. I thought this was a fun way to add some branching to an otherwise linear game.
For the most part, the puzzles themselves are on the easier side - sometimes so easy and in your face that you think it cannot possibly be that simple - but there are also more difficult ones that require the information from multiple cards to be solved. The game has a good variety of types of puzzles, some are spatial, others require maths or pattern recognition, others again rely on memory and deduction. You never need information from outside the game.
The story has a satisfying structure with a dramatic opening. It also has a journey through interesting locations and encounters. Finally, it also has an equally dramatic ending that you influence with your choices in the final puzzle.
That said, while the story is well structured within the format of the game, its contents and framing has some inherent issues. Your characters are outsiders to the jungle who are looking for the “mythical city built entirely of solid gold” with the hope of winning fame and loot. On multiple occasions in the game, you meet members of the jungle’s native population, but they are always there either as a threat to be defeated or as a means to your end. This is not unusual for characters in escape games, but within the context of the story, and the possible endings, it makes the narrative uncomfortable to take part in.
The Mystery of Eldorado, as is the case with many escape room games, cannot easily be played more than once by the same players - you will know how to solve the puzzles, what to look out for, what equipment to keep, etc..
However, unlike escape games such as the EXIT series, the game is entirely replayable by another group/player as no components are destroyed or altered. The numbers on the cards also make The Mystery of Eldorado a very easy game to reset.
Art and Components
The cards that make up most of the game are large and of good quality cardboard. The illustrations are clear and well-lit, which is important for a game where a lot of the gameplay relies on noticing details.
The leaflet, too, is clearly illustrated and accompanies some of the more in-depth spatial puzzles. It was a nice break to work with a prop of a different texture and size than the rest of the game.
The Mystery of Eldorado is a well-constructed escape game. It has easy to learn and follow rules and an interesting use of its one-deck format. The narrative of the game, however, uses the story tropes of an outsider coming to profit from a native population’s treasures and locations. If you like the sound of the gameplay but not this specific type of story, there are several other Deckscape games. Why not try Heist in Venice or The Fate of London.